Around the NFC West: 49ers prevail

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers managed to make a bad matchup at least somewhat entertaining while beating the Lions, 20-6, in Week 16.

Also from Crumpacker: Ahmad Brooks' emergence stands out as a redeeming development from the 2009 season. Crumpacker: "Brooks, a fourth-year player from Virginia, had one sack and forced two fumbles in his limited time on the field. He stripped the ball out of Drew Stanton's hand on the sack, and on Detroit's next drive he slammed into wide receiver Calvin Johnson after a catch and forced another fumble."

More from Crumpacker: Frank Gore passes 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth consecutive season, easing the sting of another season without a playoff appearance.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers cannot read much into a victory over Detroit. Knapp: "The Lions are the kind of team that Hollywood converts into parodies starring Walter Matthau or Charlie Sheen. The 49ers were like that for a while, but they've moved on, to the fringe of contention, to a safety zone where they are invulnerable to a 2-12 visitor."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider saw small signs of progress for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' defense was playing well enough for coach Mike Singletary to go for it on fourth-and-1 while leading 13-3 in the third quarter.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers have 20 takeaways in their last four home games. They have won all four matchups despite averaging only 18.5 points per game.

More from Maiocco: Rookies Ricky Jean-Francois and Cody Wallace made their regular-season NFL debuts for San Francisco.

More still from Maiocco: a report card featuring a "C" grade for Alex Smith even though the quarterback passed for 230 yards and a 97.5 rating.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says everything the 49ers accomplished Sunday came in the context of a game against a horrible team. Cohn: "Come on, the 49ers had to make an offensive statement. Smith had to dazzle. He had to go off on the pitiful Lions. A few days ago, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said the Niners need to 'eliminate the doubt and anxiety that surrounds that (quarterback) position in the organization.' Raye quickly backtracked and said he was talking about people outside the organization. Right."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Smith had to defend his thinking on a short touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis.

Also from Barrows: Smith did not turn in a convincing performance.

More from Barrows: how Gore got loose for a 48-yard reception.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers could "get away with being less than perfect" against the Lions.

Also from Brown: 49ers cornerback Dre Bly had sympathy for his former team.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News saw good and bad from Smith. Purdy: "In this case, the touchdown pass to Davis exemplified all that is so stomach-churn frustrating about Smith: He made a good play. But he could have made a simpler, even better play."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com says the team finished its home schedule with a 6-2 record at Candlestick Park.